Poria cocos Wolf (P. cocos), a well-known traditional East-Asian medicinal and edible fungus, is one of the most important components in Chinese medicine formulas like “Guizhi fuling wan” to treat hyperplasia of mammary glands and breast cancer.
In this study, we attempted to verify the anticancer efficacy of the ethanol extract of P. cocos (PC) on the breast cancer as well as to investigate its most active compound and its underlying molecular mechanism in vivo and in vitro.
The key anti-cancer components were separated and purified through chromatography and identified by spectral analyses. The in vivo anti-breast cancer efficacy and side effects of PC were evaluated in BALB/c nude mice that have been subcutaneously injected with breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231. Cytotoxicity, apoptosis and cell cycle arrest of PC were evaluated in vitro by cell viability assays and flow cytometry. The protein levels were examined via western blotting.
Pachymic acid (PA), separated and identified as the most active compound, induced the significant cytotoxicity on breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231(IC value, 2.13 ± 0.24 μg/mL) and was not active against the normal breast epithelium cells MCF-10A. The in vivo experiment revealed that PC could significantly inhibit the tumor development and the final mean tumor weight of the mice in the PC group (0.51 ± 0.12g) was significantly lower than that in the model group (1.22 ± 0.45g). Notably, compared to the first-line anticancer drug cisplatin, PC showed less side effects on the function of the vital organs and the muscle strength of the mice. Among in vitro study, PC significantly inhibited the cell growth of MDA-MB-231 by inducing cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrested at G/G phase in a dose-dependent manner. The expression of cell cycle-associated cyclin D1, cyclin E, CDK2, and CDK4 were downregulated, while p53 and p21 expression were upregulated following the PA treatment. In addition, PA downregulated the apoptotic regulator Bcl-2, increased the expression of pro-apoptotic protein Bax, and promoted the release of cytochrome c and the activation of cleaved caspase-3, -9 and caspase -8 via mitochondria-mediated and death receptor-mediated signaling pathways.
This study verified the anticancer efficacy of PC on breast cancer in vivo and in vitro through induction of cell apoptosis and G/G cell cycle arrest. The data also suggested that PA could be developed as an efficacious agent for breast cancer treatment with less side effects.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.